By: N. David Pastor
To say I have mixed feelings about this record doesn’t really say much, but as a devout Frusciante fan, it’s always been difficult to completely dismiss any of his solo efforts without first trying to understand them. Regardless, I have to admit that I don’t exactly know what to make of Enclosure–it’s a bit all over the place. More self-indulgent than any of his previous releases–besides the Outsides EP (Niandra doesn’t count)–but not without at least a few moments of respite from the onslaught of electronica that has taken its toll on Frusciante’s songwriting in the last few years; I just have the vague impression that this is a collection of B-Sides continuing where PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone might have left off. Like its predecessor, Enclosure is a very impulsive, uninhibited listening experience; filled with abrupt transitions and idiosyncratic break beats. It can be abrasive at times such as the harsh chromaticism on “Excuses” or the meandering guitar work on “Cinch.” But those moments are then contrasted by the playful innocence of “Fanfare,” the consensus standout. Either way, this is a record of near constant contradictions–something Frusciante alludes to in an interview earlier this year with Discussions Magazine. But even with a sense of purpose, it’s difficult to appreciate every aspect of this record, let alone an entire song. However, something that does seem to hurt the overall quality of the production is the timbre of Frusciante’s electronic instruments. To be fair, I know he prefers analog, specifically vintage analog, equipment to digital. But rather than the authenticity this notion presents, I can’t help but be distracted by the artificial and hollow quality of his synthesizers. There’s a lack of warmth that has made his subsequent releases as a producer less accessible than previous ones. And coupled with his modest ambivalence toward fans and releasing music, it’s a more general characterization of Frusciante. He often speaks about studying music and learning new techniques, but he has yet to make electronic music that consistently evokes the same emotion as his earlier releases. At the same time, he still deserves credit for trying to incorporate seemingly disparate techniques and influences into his music. It allows for the occasional moment of unanticipated beauty. I’m even okay with the term Progressive Synth Pop because it’s a potential genre that makes sense to me, even when it is prone to excess. And think about it, how many musicians would you let get away with coining a term like that? But as admirable as it is to see Frusciante become more and more self-sufficient in the studio, his music seems to be losing something in the process. There is a certain coldness to his music that I don’t think he is willing to acknowledge, an intellectuality that has replaced some of the raw emotion. I’m not saying he should simplify his approach (even if it works really well on “Fanfare”) but for the most part, the lack of emotional resonance goes against his more immediate qualities as a musician. But withEnclosure being the end of this particular cycle of recordings (nice metaphor), it’ll be interesting to see what comes next.